Best Practices
October 7, 2009

Flagstaff Chamber Leads Skills for Success Campaign

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In Flagstaff, “Skills for Success” means strengthening the business community’s greatest resource: the students who will fill tomorrow’s jobs. This program, the brainchild of the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce Education and Workforce Development Committee, was developed in 2005 to address two major concerns expressed by many local businesses: (1) Students lack the “soft skills” necessary to be effective employees; and (2) Students are unaware of employment opportunities in their own city.

“Skills for Success” allows the business community to show middle- and high-school students locally available job opportunities so that Flagstaff can retain the workers needed to make businesses thrive and grow. Business representatives meet with students in the classroom and, if possible, give tours of their workplaces to students. These partnerships have included lectures, mock interview sessions, resume writing tips, discussion of emerging careers, and workplace tours. For example, 35 students from Coconino High School toured the Nestle Purina PetCare manufacturing and distribution plant. One student from Coconino High School was chosen to participate as a Co-op with Nestle Purina. Additionally, many students have had the opportunity to take part in Job Shadowing Day at Nestle Purina.

The “Skills for Success” program is funded by a $10,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance of Arizona. Their corporate executive team widely acknowledges that the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Flagstaff Unified School District, plays a significant role in business retention and expansion of local companies by making available a qualified workforce. The Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce was honored this school year by the Arizona Business and Education Coalition when Skills for Success was chosen as a finalist for its 2009 “Best Practices” Award in Business Education Partnerships in the Career Exploration Category. It was also a finalist for the “2008 Excellence in Economic Development Awards” at the Governor's Rural Economic Development Conference.

“Through the Skills for Success program, over 1,000 high school and middle school students annually are exposed to over two dozen local businesses, their standards of excellence, hiring practices and career opportunities,” says Julie Pastrick, president and CEO, Flagstaff Area Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses have noted that the platform for exposing their workforce needs to local high school students couldn’t be matched in any other way. Likewise, teachers in the program have told us this leads to ‘light bulb’ moments: when students make a trip to the local business, not only do they realize the business is here, but they are ‘transformed’ and come out of the program with a sense of confidence that they could be successful in a local career after graduation.”